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Record Study Abroad Numbers: A Post-Election Silver Lining

In the week that’s followed the 2016 presidential election reports of racist threats and hate crimes are up, and many Americans have taken to city streets in protest. In response, countries like Turkey and the Bahamas have issued U.S. travel warnings, and the future of foreign travel to the States seems uncertain under a President Trump.

But amidst the turmoil, study abroad students around the world are proving to be a silver lining. The Department of State announced this week that the number of international students in the U.S. has hit a record high, and the number of Americans who study abroad is on the rise.

According to the Institute of International Education’s 2016 Open Doors Report, the number of international students in the U.S. has risen above one million for the first time ever—a seven percent increase from last year. According to the findings, “There are now 85 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than were reported a decade ago.”

Plus, one in 10 undergraduate students in the U.S. now study abroad before they graduate—up three percent from last year.

U.S. Study Abroad Students from 1989 to 2015

(Photo: Institute of International Education)

Rising study abroad numbers are a boost not only for economies, but for global attitudes. International students added more than $35 billion to America’s national economy last year, and hosting students makes the U.S. a more attractive travel destination. An argument can also be made that the global perspective gained from studying abroad increases tolerance, and college students who study abroad could certainly be the future of travel.

In terms of the growing number of American students abroad, international education companies have been using the 2016 election results to promote study abroad programs, pushing ‘friendlier’ places to live. The most popular nations for American students abroad are the U.K., Italy, Spain, France, and China. International students in the U.S. are primarily from China, India, and Saudi Arabia—which make up 53 percent of the international student population here.

Only time will tell if the international student population will continue to grow under a President Trump—and if study abroad programs have their way, the number of American students abroad could see a boost.

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


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